On this day 17 years ago, a momentous—some might even say “miraculous”—occasion occurred. No, not the birthday of a beloved celebrity or a watershed historical moment; what I’m referring to, naturally, is the airing of the Absolutely Fabulous series finale, which just so happened to be a Christmas episode.
There is little in this world that I love more than a Christmas episode of anything (except, of course, for a Chanukah episode), but even in that hallowed category, Ab Fab stands alone. The show, which revolved around cig-puffing, champers-swilling British society lushes Edina and Patsy simply trying to get from day to day without doing too much damage to themselves or Edina’s precocious, uber-nerdy daughter Saffy, ran for an exultant five seasons—plus a reboot of which we do not speak—and while I would have preferred it go forever, its Christmas-themed exit almost made me forgive its absence.
In the finale, titled “Cold Turkey,” the central tension of the show is laid bare: Edina, or Eddy, is caught between going away on a glamorous vacation with Patsy or staying home to celebrate Christmas domestically with Saffy. The episode is, to put it simply, 2003 as hell in so many ways—campy, over-the-top, poorly subtitled and deeply of its time—but watching Patsy and Eddy saw into a roast chicken and toast each other with champagne and cigarettes will always make me feel cozy.
Spoiler: At the end of the episode, Eddy ultimately chooses to spend Christmas with Patsy and Saffy in addition to the rest of their extended clan, and while there’s plenty of nonsense and hilarity to soften the sweetness of it all—Patsy almost dies from choking on a chicken bone!—there’s something genuinely meaningful about watching Eddy ring in the holidays surrounded by loved ones, particularly when so many of us aren’t doing the same this year.
The “chosen versus biological family” quandary that Eddy faces feels all too relevant this year, as many of us are eschewing the traditional pilgrimage to our family home to spend the holiday season with the people who raised us, but even in the pre-pandemic era, “Cold Turkey” felt like it was written just for me. (And not only because Eddy desperately pleads with her Saffy to come out as a lesbian, despite the fact that she’s straight, which pretty much directly mirrors my experience, except I actually was gay.)
As a child, I was pretty much the spitting image of Saffy, minus the good grades and plus an even worse haircut. I was a grade-A wallflower, raised by an extremely gregarious and socially skilled mother who had an innate knack for making people feel at home. (And yes, like Eddy, she kept the white wine flowing.) My mom always made Christmas extra-special for me and everyone else in our family—in fact, I credit her directly for my holiday derangement syndrome—but, needy thing that I was, it was never enough; like Saffy, I wanted all of my mother, even the small part she reserved to entertain friends and far-flung family at Christmas.
2020 marks the first Christmas in my life that I won’t be spending with my mom, so I’m making do with rewatching Ab Fab—a show we both adore—and texting her about it incessantly. When I finally hit “Cold Turkey” just days before Christmas, I couldn’t help seeing it as a sign; maybe it’s hokey, but I choose to see it as the universe telling me I’m doing the right thing by not going home this year. Why risk it, when my mom and I can Zoom all day with our respective holiday cocktails in hand? Finally, I’ve graduated from a shy, nervous Saffy into the Patsy to my mom’s Eddy, and I couldn’t be more grateful for that kinship, even if we do have to bask in it remotely. Happy holidays, sweetie darlings!